FOUR MONTHS after floating an Expression of Interest (EoI) and subsequent allotment of work orders to the tune of Rs 10,000 crore, the Chhattisgarh government has suddenly cancelled it following complaints of irregularities. The state Cabinet decided to cancel the entire allotment process three days after a Chief Secretary-led committee was tasked with studying these complaints.
“The Cabinet has decided to cancel the entire tender life mission (EOI) and take action as directed by the Government of India,” an October 26 statement from the government said. On October 23, representatives of local contractors had approached the Chief Minister’s Office, claiming more work had been allotted to “outsiders”, following which Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel announced the setting up of a three-member committee chaired by the Chief Secretary.
Of the over 1,300 companies which were allotted works, 13 companies were awarded work orders worth over Rs 100 crore each. The three biggest orders were to Jain Irrigation (Rs 933.34 crore), JMC Projects (Rs 722.78 crore) and Patel Engineering (Rs 606.81 crore).
When asked about the Chhattisgarh government decision to cancel the tenders under Jal Jeevan Mission, Union Jal Shakti Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat said, “Water being the state subject, the planning, implementation, operation and maintenance is to be done by the state. So, it is primarily, and ultimately state subject; they will have to take care of their spending, working, implementation and maintenance.”
Under the Jal Jeewan Mission, more than 41 lakh rural families in the state were to get Functional Household Tap Connection till September 2023. In Chhattisgarh, only 10 per cent of the rural families in the state have a household tap connection as per government records. Over 20 lakh connections were to be built in 2020-2021, sources in the state government said.
The works allotted to ensure 100 per cent tap connections included building water tanks, laying pipelines, civil works, tap connection, water purification, pumping equipment, and fluoride removal, in more than 8,000 gram panchayats, amounting to Rs 10,515.9 crore.
In a recent mid-term review of the Jal Jeewan mission in the state, the Union Ministry of Jal Shakti had said Chhattisgarh was allocated Rs 445.52 crore in 2020-21 Further, under 15th Finance Commission Grants to rural local bodies, it was allocated Rs 1,454 crore in 2020-21, 50 per cent of which is mandatorily to be utilised on drinking water supply and sanitation activities.
The Opposition BJP has accused the state government of trying to “siphon” funds earmarked for the mission. BJP leader Chandrakant Sahu wrote to Shekhawat requesting that funds be handed over to gram panchayat bodies. Leader of Opposition Dharamlal Kaushik has demanded action against the perpetrators of “irregularities” that led to cancellation of the tender.
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